"Ancestry Daily News" <email@example.com> on 08/05/2004
ANCESTRY DAILY NEWS
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In this issue:
- New Databases Added Today
--- Minnesota History, 1655-1908 (Images online)
--- Cranston, Rhode Island City Directory, 1930-1931 (Images online)
- Historical Newspapers Collection Update
--- "Frederick Post" (Frederick, Md.), Various years 1872-2002
--- "Dunkirk Evening Observer" (Dunkirk, N.Y.), 1889
- New U.K. and Ireland Records Collection Database
--- Old Birmingham Men and Names, 13th to 16th Centuries
- Today's Featured Map
--- Chart of the Mississippi River
- Article: "Writing Our Family's Story," by Elizabeth Shown Mills,
CG, CGL, FASG
- Ancestry Quick Tip
- Fast Fact: "Isle of Canes," by Elizabeth Shown Mills
- Thought for Today
- Clipping of the Day
- Product Specials from the Shops @ Ancestry.com
--- "Isle of Canes," A Novel by Elizabeth Shown Mills http://www.ancestry.com/rd/prodredir.asp?sourceid=831&key=P3810
--- "Professional Genealogy: A Manual for Researchers, Writers,
Editors, Lecturers, and Librarians," edited by Elizabeth Shown Mills http://www.ancestry.com/rd/prodredir.asp?sourceid=831&key=P3151
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NEW DATABASES ADDED TODAY
MINNESOTA HISTORY, 1655-1908 (Images online)
This database contains a history of the state of Minnesota from 1655
to 1908. Presently this database includes volumes 1-2 of this multi-
volume series. Volume 1 covers the beginning of the history of
Minnesota and includes a description of the state (geographic and
geologic features, its climate, and its flora and fauna). It also
includes information on the Indians who occupied the land and the
explorations by white men of the area (Vol. I, preface). Volume 2
covers the period of time from the occupation of the Federal
Government of Fort Snelling to the admission of the state into the
Union (Vol. II, preface). Historical works contain valuable
information that can be a great addition to your genealogical
research. Although historical works may not mention your ancestors
specifically (unless they were prominent individuals in the
community), they do provide information on the time and place in
which your ancestors lived, which will help you place your ancestors
in a historical context.
Source Information: Ancestry.com. "Minnesota History, 1655-1908"
[database online]. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com, Inc., 2004. Original
data: Upham, Warren and Return I. Holcombe. "Minnesota in Three
Centuries 1655-1908." Vols. I-II. Minnesota: Publishing Society of
CRANSTON, RHODE ISLAND CITY DIRECTORY, 1930-1931 (Images online)
This database contains the 1930-31 directory for the city of
Cranston, a city part of the Providence metropolitan area in
Providence County, Rhode Island. In addition to providing the names
of the heads of households, the directory provides their addresses
and occupational information. Wives' names are listed italics in
parentheses immediately following the husbands'. A city or town name
listed in parentheses indicates the winter residence of the
individual. Dates of deaths from the previous two years are listed as
well as the names of partners of firms and, if possible, the
forwarding addresses of people who moved to another town. In addition
to the alphabetical directory, a business directory, a street and
household directory, a map, and other miscellaneous information
relating to items of local interest are also included.
Source Information: Ancestry.com. "Cranston, Rhode Island City
Directory, 1930-1931" [database online]. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com,
Inc., 2004. Original data: "The Cranston Rhode Island Directory 1930-
1931." Providence, R.I.: Sampson and Murdock, 1929.
This directory was reproduced courtesy of the New England Historic
Genealogical Society (http://www.nehgs.org ).
NEW U.K. AND IRELAND RECORDS COLLECTION DATABASE
OLD BIRMINGHAM MEN AND NAMES, 13TH TO 16TH CENTURIES (Images online)
This database contains information on men and names of Birmingham
from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. While this work does
contain some historical information, it is not meant to be a
historical work. Examples of some of the topics covered in this work
include patronymics, sources of surnames, changes in spelling, proper
names, and so forth. Information about the earliest church of the
reformation built and endowed in England is also included.
Researchers with ancestors from Birmingham will obviously find the
names portion of this database most interesting, but others will
likely find the information about the early churches interesting as
Source Information: Ancestry.com. "Old Birmingham Men and Names, 13th
to 16th Centuries" [database online]. Provo, Utah: MyFamily.com,
Inc., 2004. Original data: Smith, Toulmin. "Memorials of Old
Birmingham. Men and Names: Founders, Freeholders, and Indwellers,
from the Thirteenth to the Sixteenth Century with particulars as to
the earliest church of the reformation built and endowed in England,
from original and unpublished documents." Birmingham: Walter J.
"WRITING OUR FAMILY'S STORY," by Elizabeth Shown Mills, CG, CGL, FASG
Mark Twain swore that writing is 5 percent inspiration and 95 percent
perspiration. A genealogical mentor of mine once poo-poohed both
factors. Stick to the Jack Webb Rule, she said: "Just the facts,
ma'am, just the facts." Three decades, twelve books, and five hundred
articles later, as I answer readers seeking advice of their own, I've
decided I'm not as akin to Jack Webb as to Adrian Monk: "Think
creatively, but stay straight!"
There are, in fact, many ways to tell our family's story. Genealogy
has room for all sorts of writers, because genealogy is a search for
identity and identities wear many faces. The one constant is that
identities be real and faces authentic.
To say that my latest book has brought a tsunami of mail on writing
family history would be an understatement. "Who'd have thunk it", one
wrote, "that Isle of Canes could come from the same computer as
'Evidence! Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian!'" That
writer's real wonder, not surprisingly, was whether the two could
share the same hard drive without sinning against St. Genie!
The answer is yes. "Thinking creatively" is a skill all genealogists
need from Day One of the research process. Yet whether our path leads
to a historical novel such as Isle of Canes, or a traditional
genealogy, or studies for academic presses--all of which I had
previously done for the islanders--we genealogical writers still need
to follow Mr. Monk's compulsion to "stay straight."
SURVEYING YOUR OPTIONS
If you've been into genealogy for more than two years and seven days,
you've likely been bit by the writing bug. Now, you're wondering how
to scratch the itch. Some of you fear what bit you. Others relish it.
Some of you have dreamed of penning "The Great American Novel" about
your own family but feared you'd be sent to Genealogical Siberia if
Wherever you are right now, the roadmap reads the same. Know your
options. Know their standards. Know your family--what the live ones
like as well as what the dead ones were like. Know your talents. Then
plan a journey that gets you where you want to go.
Family historians have at least five ultimate destinations: (1) a
traditional genealogy; (2) a genealogical history; (3) a thematic
family history; (4) a biography; and (5) historical "faction." Let's
peek at each.
GENEALOGY (Bare bones)
Genealogies are often called compiled genealogies for a reason. Most
are compilations of raw facts--names, dates, and places--rather than
creative works. Modern genealogists who find collecting easier than
writing are blessed with software into which they can type raw data
and, with the click of a mouse, produce ancestral bare bones arranged
as a narrative (hopefully, with documentation). Of course, this isn't
really a family history. It's a reference work. Even our mothers
won't sit down and read it from cover to cover.
GENEALOGICAL HISTORY (Some flesh on the bones)
More appealing is a genealogy that places everyone into historical
context--social, economic, and so on. A genealogical history sticks
to proved facts and well-built cases. Of course, it may include
traditions, along with the efforts we've made to verify each; and all
assertions carry reliable documentation. However, we can't expect our
genealogical software to produce that history. We have to transport
our bare bones into a word-processing program to mold the flesh,
build the muscle, and trim the fat--efforts otherwise known as
writing and editing.
THEMATIC FAMILY HISTORY (Flesh on some bones)
A thematic family history is a newer, more academic approach. First,
we define a theme that represents the family. Then we develop that
theme, using a limited number of family members who embody those
family traits. Here, too, we adhere to proved fact, skillfully
analyzed, interpreted, and placed on the broader stage of time and
place--with thorough documentation, of course.
BIOGRAPHY (Flesh on a single set of bones)
A meaningful biography reconstructs an individual in all dimensions.
It puts that life into both historical and family context, with
dispassionate objectivity. It, too, adheres to proved fact, well
interpreted, and provides thorough documentation. In genealogical
literature, the biography is definitely a genre begging to be used.
HISTORICAL FACTION, a.k.a. "My Family Saga"
(Heart and soul, as well as flesh and bones)
Of all the approaches, historical faction is the most challenging.
Its foundation and framework, windows into the past and cobwebbed
crannies should all be molded from fact. After all, our ancestors
were real people, deserving respect for who and what they actually
Having defined a family theme, we develop the plot by drawing upon
the actual lives of those forebears. We streamline our cast of
characters, culling thousands of kinfolk and known associates to
those who best drive that plot. Then we shape the chosen few into
vivid, robust characters who personify the family story. But that
calls for dialog, and there lies the quicksand where we sink deep
into fiction, even though we try to pull dialog from our documents.
Even more challenging: that dialog--like plot, stage, and scenery--
needs to be rich and varied in context, language, and tone to evoke
all the human senses.
(What's that? You thought novels are easier to write because every
statement doesn't have to be documented? Yeah, right!)
A "DO-ABLE PLAN"
The path you decide upon will depend upon your talents, time, and
intended audience. If the thought of writing anything scares you,
you're not alone. Even the best writers leave sweat, coffee stains,
and chewed-up fingernails on their keyboards. If that's no comfort,
you may decide to let your genealogy software provide the skeletal
framework for the family and leave it to more creative cousins to
clothe the people you have found and put feathers in their bonnets.
But if your family story has truly gotten under you skin and you know
it won't let go until you actually tell it, there is a Do-able Plan:
STEP ONE: Conduct your research using everything available.
--- Thoroughly document every fact; explain every conclusion.
--- Build a Context File, filling it with those descriptive nuggets
of ancestral times and places that you find in the course of your
STEP TWO: Choose your favorite ancestor and write a biography. Length
doesn't matter. What's important here is substance and soul.
--- Research that life from birth to death.
--- Put that life into context--every kind possible--with
documentation, of course.
--- Move out of your database! Use a word processor for real writing
STEP THREE: Write more biographies, one at a time.
--- Dress them up. Add illustrations. Format them nicely. Create
--- Share these with your family. They're wonderful presents, easily
digested, and they'll build interest in your work.
STEP FOUR: Create a Genealogical History.
--- Move your database into your word-processor, merging it into
those biographies you've written for key individuals.
--- Then rewrite and edit--massage and shape it all--to create a real
SO WHAT ABOUT THE GREAT AMERICAN NOVEL?
For most of us, that Genealogical History will fulfill our dreams.
For others, it won't quite scratch the writer's itch. Some families
we encounter--perhaps our own, perhaps their neighbors--burrow under
our skin and into our psyche, demanding more. That was the itch that
triggered "Isle of Canes," compelling me to explore the forgotten
world of one incredible family from its slave roots through
generations of living, loving, laboring, and sometimes feuding with
my children's forebears along Louisiana's Cane River.
Many of you confess now to that same itch. Before this--you say--you
fought it, wondering "Dare I?" Now you ask, "How Do I?" That last
question is the toughest of all. The basic answer is to start with
those Steps One to Four of the Do-able Plan. We owe that to our
families--to research their lives, document their stories, and put
provable facts into print as a permanent reference work. Not until
then should we consider taking the creative license that storytelling
NURTURING OUR CREATIVE SELF
Storytelling is a craft of its own. Many masters of that craft have
put their wisdom into print. Lawrence P. Gouldrup's "Writing the
Family Narrative" (Ancestry, 1987) will help you hone your skills on
such fun projects as character sketches and short stories. Hundreds
of writers outside the field teach essentials like narration, point
of view, voice, and plot development.
As with genealogy, there are societies and support groups for those
who relish historical novels as both a profession and a hobby. One of
the best, the British-based Historical Novel Society http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org will hold its first North
American Conference in Salt Lake City in April 2005, where several
dozen presenters (yours truly included) will offer three days of
guidance on the writer's craft.
Writing a family story--regardless of the approach we take--is as
much a discovery process as the research itself. Amid trying to
explain what we've found, we discover new ways those findings fit
together to create mosaics we had not seen before. In struggling to
articulate the meaning of ancestral lives, we discover neglected
nooks within our own selves.
Like most writers, I began "Isle of Canes" after I felt I knew my
subject. I had compiled the family's genealogy. I had written its
history from various angles. But the challenge of telling the
Islanders' story through their eyes and voices, rather than mine,
forced me to probe far more deeply into areas I had previously
skirted. The cultural battles between the Deep South's old Creole
Catholic regime and its Protestant settlers from Anglo-America--both
of which intertwine on my children's ancestral charts--was only the
first of many unexpected historical epiphanies that brightened the
labor of writing. As you craft your family's story, you'll discover
many of your own.
So long as our family's story remains untold, our ancestors remain
forgotten. By immortalizing them, regardless of the format we choose,
we'll fill a need within ourselves, inspire our kin and, perhaps,
help society itself better understand the tangled past that has led
us to our present.
As a writer of genealogy and history for three decades, Elizabeth
Shown Mills feels she has avenged all the rejections her grandmother
received from yesteryear's editors who thought Carrie Mae Odom
Jeffcoat should stick to childrearing. Best known for "Evidence!
Citation & Analysis for the Family Historian," Elizabeth's latest
work is a gripping historical novel, "Isle of Canes." For a sample
chapter, visit http://www.isleofcanes.com
MEET ELIZABETH SHOWN MILLS
Noted Genealogist and Author of "Isle of Canes"
7 p.m., Tuesday, August 31, 2004
St. Louis (Missouri) Library Headquarters
Using the central character from Isle of Canes, a woman born into
slavery in 1742, Mills will teach how to find records that don't seem
to exist and how to use those records to discover a woman's heart,
soul, thoughts, and personality. For more information, visit http://www.slcl.org/slcl/sc/mills-talk.htm .
ANCESTRY QUICK TIP
COPYING INDEX ENTRIES
When I print copies of a census page or other documents that I find
in an Ancestry.com database, I always turn the copy over and run it
back through the printer, making a copy of the printer-friendly index
entry on the back.
Thanks to Dot for today's Quick Tip! If you have a tip you would like
to share with researchers, you can send it to mailto:ADNeditor@ancestry.com .
Quick Tips may be reprinted, with credit to the submitter, in other
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Digest," please state so clearly in your message.
FAST FACT: "ISLE OF CANES," BY ELIZABETH SHOWN MILLS
Her grandfather had been a king; her parents lived as slaves. At her
parents' death, sixteen-year-old Coincoin vowed to restore her family
to the grandeur it deserved. One day, her family would rule again.
But the path to keeping her vow was not an easy one. Forsaken by her
husband when she would not abandon their children to flee slavery,
Coincoin was sustained by a faith that she would one day find a
better route to freedom for all of them. When her destiny confronted
her in the form of a Frenchman seeking wealth and adventure on the
Louisiana frontier, she met it boldly and paid the price it demanded.
Wealthy, educated, cultured, and proud, Coincoin's descendants would
rule the Isle of Canes, but they would be pawns in the cultural
battle between Louisiana's Creoles and Anglo newcomers. The Civil War
that promised equality took away their identity as a special caste
and left them destitute. Then Jim Crow stripped them of the last of
Yet throughout all indignities, the Isle's Creoles of color never
lost their pride, their respect for their heritage--French, Spanish,
African, and Indian--or their belief that they were meant to be a
bridge across the great American divide between black and white.
THOUGHT FOR TODAY
"History is not history, unless it is the truth."
--- Abraham Lincoln
CLIPPING OF THE DAY
From the "New York Times" (New York, N.Y.), 05 August 1870, page 8:
Quite an exciting event, which came near terminating somewhat
seriously, occurred at Washingtonville, in the town of East Chester,
on Wednesday afternoon. It appears that William Watts, the Pound-
master, had impounded the cattle and geese of sundry residents of the
neighborhood, and as it is alleged, had shown some favoritism to
other violators of the pound laws. An army of German and Irish women,
armed with all sorts of weapons, resolved to make war upon the Pound-
master, on the occasion of his next visit among them. Under these
circumstances, Justice Meeks, aided by Constables Wood, Foster and
Watts, Police Constable Tomlinson and Special Officers Bertine and
Myerhoff, repaired to the public pound, and undertook to remove a
post which had been put down to prevent the opening of the pound
gate, when they were set upon by the infuriated women and driven off
the field. The Amazons then tore down the inclosure [sic] amid shouts
of victory. One of the resisting party claims to have a lease of the
ground, which may save her from prosecution.
"Isle of Canes" is the epic account of a multiracial family in
Louisiana that, over four generations and more than 150 years, rose
from the chains of slavery to rule the Isle of Canes. Historically
accurate, this first novel by eminent genealogist Elizabeth Shown
Mills is a gripping tale of racial conflict, economic ruin, and
family pride told against the backdrop of colonial and antebellum
Elizabeth Shown Mills is a historical writer who has spent her life
studying Southern culture and the relationships between people--
emotional as well as genetic. A popular lecturer, author of numerous
works on generational history, and past president of the American
Society of Genealogists, Elizabeth recently retired as editor of the
"National Genealogical Society Quarterly" to devote her time to
writing. Isle of Canes is her first novel. More information,
including an excerpt from the book, is available at http://www.isleofcanes.com .
Normally this book retails for $24.95, but today you can buy it in
the Shops @ Ancestry.com for $21.95.
Professional Genealogy is a manual by professionals for everyone
serious about genealogy. Its twenty-nine chapters, written by two
dozen scholars, cover the following topic areas: research skills and
the analysis of evidence, writing and compiling genealogical
research, the core genealogy library collection, genealogical ethics
and standards, editing and publishing, and topics relating to the
profession of genealogist. 654 Pages, Hardcover.
Normally this book retails for $44.95, but today you can buy it in
the Shops @ Ancestry.com for $37.95.
Order now--These prices will only be available for a limited
If you prefer to order by phone, call toll-free 1-800-ANCESTRY
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Julie Duncan, Online Editor
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